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In your career as a landscape architect or designer, you work collaboratively with contractors, engineers, and building architects to create beautiful spaces for public and private use. Companies and clients hire you because they know the immensely positive psychological impact that an outdoor area can have and the benefits of designing in harmony with the natural environment.
While much of your work is focused on improving the aesthetics and usability of a space, there may be times where you face clients who are unhappy with your work. Dissatisfied clients may file suit against you, claiming negligence on the job or mistakes or oversights, among other reasons. Running a landscape architecture business is not without its liabilities and risks. In addition to the risk of professional error, there are workplace accidents, natural disasters, theft, and other unfortunate events that may harm your business. To ensure your business is covered against these risks, consider purchasing comprehensive business insurance. With the right package in place, you can provide financial protection for your business and your employees when the need arises.
Business insurance is a good option for your firm if:
- You would like to insure your services and practice against claims of poor performance or errors in your work
- You store employee or customer data like Social Security numbers or credit card information
- You employ others and provide benefits like health insurance or retirement plans
- You lease or own your own office building
- You store valuable equipment or property in your office
- Clients or vendors visit your office
What insurance coverage do I need as a landscape architect?
For landscape architects professional liability insurance is one of the most important coverages to obtain. Other insurance types, including general liability and commercial auto insurance, are also critical to running your business. Below we explain some of the more common business insurance coverages that landscape architects should consider.
Professional Liability Insurance
As a landscape architect, you aim to design outdoor areas that are both beautiful and safe, while providing the best service possible. However, despite years of training and experience, occasionally, things don’t always go as planned. Projects can be delayed, mistakes can be made, and misunderstandings can occur. Clients may be unsatisfied with your work and can sue you, regardless of whether your company is at fault or not.
Professional liability insurance, also known as errors & omissions insurance, can protect you from potential client lawsuits stemming from the performance of your professional duties. Professional liability insurance is one of the most important coverages a landscape architect can obtain, as professionals involved in building design are highly susceptible to these claims. Covered areas for professional liability insurance include negligence, misleading statements, performance, and breach of duty.
- Errors/Negligence: You work with a national museum to develop a garden on their grounds. Unfortunately, one of your architects forgets to include appropriate lighting for the paths of the garden. Because of this omission, the museum must spend extra money to have lighting put in and must close the garden to visitors for two weeks. The museum sues your firm for damages.
- Performance: Your firm is hired to design the outdoor spaces of a technology company’s new campus. They have a deadline to move in by summertime, as the lease on their former office space is expiring. Because of some bungled paperwork at your office, you miss a design deadline, causing the entire project to be delayed by four weeks. The technology company sues your firm for damages.
General Liability Insurance
General liability insurance provides coverage for your business in cases where somebody experiences bodily injury or property damage while you’re conducting business. This type of insurance is a common coverage for any type of business. If you accidentally damage a client’s property on a site visit, or if a client visiting your office injures himself—these are all situations in which general liability can protect you from any claims. General liability is third-party insurance, meaning it covers you against claims from third parties, including vendors, customers, or landlords.
- Property damage: You send one of your employees to inspect an outdoor lighting system at a major outdoor mall whose grounds you’ve been hired to redesign. He starts tinkering with the wires to see how far he can extend the light system, and he accidentally damages the entire grid. The mall sues your company for the cost of repairing their light system.
- Bodily injury: A client is visiting your office for a design consultation, and as he walks through the lobby, he trips and falls over a set of tools that one of your employees left out. The client injures his back in the process and is sent to the hospital. Later, he sues your firm for the injury.
Commercial Property Insurance
Commercial property insurance helps protect your business if your work space is burglarized, hit by a major weather event, damaged by a fire, or any number of unfortunate events. This form of insurance will provide for the repair or replacement of your physical assets in the event of fire, windstorm, theft, vandalism, and more. For landscape architects, commercial property insurance can provide protection for your office space, computers, furniture, tools, electronic equipment, or other valuable property owned by your business.
- Buildings: A severe windstorm hits your town and your office building incurs significant damage. Windows are broken, and rocks and dirt enter your office building through the windows, damaging the walls. Commercial property insurance would help cover the cost of the damages.
- Contents: One of your assistants overloads an electrical outlet by daisy chaining two power strips. An electrical fire breaks out, and seven computers are damaged. Commercial property insurance would help to cover the costs of replacing the damaged computers.
Commercial Auto Insurance
If your company owns or leases one or more vehicles to visit worksites or client offices, or your employees use their personal vehicles for business purposes, commercial auto insurance is a key coverage to obtain. In the event of an accident involving your vehicles, commercial auto insurance can provide financial protection. This type of insurance has both liability and property components. The liability component protects your business if one of your workers is at fault for causing a crash and causes bodily injury or damages someone else’s vehicle or property. The property component of commercial auto insurance protects the value of your vehicle against crashes, theft, and other perils.
- You send one of your employees to visit a client’s property one town over. She decides to take the company car. She is within 10 miles of the estate when she is side-swiped by another car, damaging the driver side door. Commercial auto insurance would provide coverage for the damage to the company car.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Workers’ compensation insurance provides financial benefits to employees who suffer work-related illnesses or injuries while employed by your business. In most states, businesses that have employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. In exchange for accepting workers’ comp benefits, an injured employee agrees to not sue your business for the injury. Workers’ compensation insurance is no-fault, which means that it pays benefits regardless of whether the employer or employee is at fault for the injury.
Workers’ compensation can cover the costs of:
- Funeral expenses
- Disability benefits
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
- Death benefits
- A portion of lost wages
- You send one of your best architects to the local cemetery that you are planning to redesign. While in the field, he trips over a tombstone and hits his head. He must be rushed to the emergency room, where he is diagnosed with a concussion. He misses a week of work. Workers’ comp would cover his medical bills, as well as a portion of the income he has lost due to the injury.
Business Owner’s Policy
A business owner’s policy, also known as a “BOP,” combines commercial property coverage, general liability coverage, and business income and extra expense insurance into a single plan, providing premium savings to qualified small businesses.
As a landscape architect, you are responsible for designing the parks and outdoor spaces of campuses, businesses, recreational facilities, and private homes that people enjoy everyday. As a business owner, though, you must consider the financial security of your own company. Are you prepared for the liabilities and risks you’re exposed to? If an unhappy client were to sue your business, could your business survive? Or if a key employee of yours is seriously injured on the job, would your company be able to provide him proper financial assistance? These are the questions you must ask yourself as you think about putting in safeguards and protections for your business.
Finding the right combination of insurance coverages is critical to the success of your landscape design business. Without the right policies in place, you may be overexposed to risk. Whether it’s protecting yourself from lawsuits related to the services you provide your clients or simply making sure you have coverage for a natural disaster, make sure you’ve got the right policies in place to keep your business and your employees covered in the face of any unfortunate events.